My fellow Americans, I have said in previous addresses on this occasion that the key to our future success is to make sure that the education we provide our young people is the best in the world. I have said that we must out-educate and out-innovate other nations.
Over the past four years, I have learned what we need to do. First, we must end the pressure on teachers to teach to the test. I have said it before and I will say it again: We want teachers to teach with creativity and passion. I call on states not to pay bonuses to teachers to produce higher test scores and to stop evaluating teachers based on the test scores of their students. We now realize that this causes teaching to the test. That must stop now. Of course, teachers should be evaluated, but they should be evaluated by other professionals, not by their students’ test scores.
Too much testing crushes creativity and innovation, and that’s why we must stop it — now.
Second, we must strengthen and improve our public schools. We must end all efforts to privatize them. I am firmly opposed to vouchers. I will cancel federal subsidies to any charter school that does not seek out and enroll students with disabilities and students who have dropped out. I call on the states to prohibit for-profit schools and for-profit management of schools. Every dollar taken from taxpayers must go to classrooms, not to investors.
Let us recognize here and now that public education is an essential institution of our democratic society. We must make it better, not privatize it.
We will improve education by improving the lives of children. The United States leads the advanced nations of the world in child poverty. This is a scandal, and we must dedicate ourselves to reducing it.
We are #24 in the world in providing early childhood education. We must extend early childhood education to all children, especially those who are poorest.
A study last year by the March of Dimes said we are #131 out of 184 nations in assuring prenatal care for pregnant women. Women who don’t get prenatal care are at risk of having children with developmental deficiencies. That is unacceptable.
When all our children start school healthy and ready to learn, we will be a better society with better schools. Let’s start now.